What figure of speech is in "Macbeth" II.1: "a heavy summons drowsiness lies like lead upon me,/and yet i would not sleep"?

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linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You have two different comparisons at work in this line. First, drowsiness is called a "heavy summons." That figure of speech is a metaphor. The Guide to Literary Terms defines metaphor as:

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to a person, idea, or object to which it is not literally applicable.

The other comparison also involves drowsiness, which "lies like lead upon me." This kind of comparison is a simile, and The Guide to Literary Terms gives it this definition:

a figure of speech in which two things, essentially different but thought to be alike in one or more respects, are compared using “like,” “as,” “as if,” or “such” for the purpose of explanation, allusion, or ornament.

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slauritzen | Student
It is a simile since it uses like or as. Sleeplessness is a theme throughout the play. Banquo says this when he and his son Fleance are on their way to bed. He is saying that he feels tired, but he doesn't feel like he should/could sleep because he has a bad feeling. Immediately after this foreshadowing, Macbeth enters and, for the audience at least, verifies Banquo's concerns.

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Macbeth

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